Garett Claypool had a solid start and the bullpen got back to their excellent form, but for the first time all season, the offense was missing. Even so, it didn't matter for UCLA on Tuesday night because they got a bit of help from UC Riverside in the ninth inning to score the game winning run for a 3-2 victory and boost their record to 10-0.
Claypool entered the game having thrown nine innings this season with only one run allowed and for a while, he looked better than even that stellar line. After allowing a single to begin the game, Claypool got the next 13 outs without allowing a hit. The senior was lights out in that time frame, striking out six as the Highlanders could not muster any type of rally off of the right-hander.
While Claypool was cruising, the Bruin offense got going early. Beau Amaral led off the first with a single and two batters later, Tyler Rahmatulla roped a triple to right center, scoring the speedy Amaral easily.
UCLA got on the board again in the next inning and it began with a one-out single by Steve Rodriguez. Dean Espy and Niko Gallego followed with a hit by pitch and walk, respectively, to load the bases with just one down. Amaral hit a slow roller to first, not hard enough for UC Riverside to turn a double play or throw home so while Amaral was out at first, Rodriguez did score for a 2-0 UCLA lead.
That was the end of the Bruin offense for a while and in the sixth inning, the Highlanders offense finally got to Claypool. After Claypool retired the first batter of the inning, he surrendered a pair of doubles that scored one and put the tying run on second base. Claypool was left in for one more batter and he got the batter swinging at strike three for the second out of the inning. Head coach John Savage then turned to left-hander Matt Grace to get the left-handed hitter, but the batter was able to loft a fly ball just behind the shortstop for a single to score the tying run.
The UCLA offense got going again in the eighth, but some questionable third base coaching and a stellar play in center field quashed the rally. Rahmatulla led off the inning with a single and was sacrificed to second. With one out, Cody Keefer lined a single to dead center and the centerfielder came up throwing. Despite the ball being hard hit and the centerfielder playing shallow, third base coach Steve Pearse sent Rahmatulla home and the centerfield made a strong throw to get the runner at the plate.
That sent the Bruins to the ninth inning, still in search of the winning run and after being denied by good defense, they were the benefactor of poor defense. Rodriguez led off the ninth for the Bruins and popped one up in foul territory, only for the first baseman to drop it. He popped another one up in foul territory, but this time the rightfielder dropped it. With a third chance, Rodriguez stroked a hard line drive to center for a lead off single. Dean Espy sacrificed Rodriguez to second and after Chris Giovinazzo pinch ran, a wild pitch advanced him to third. At that point, all it took was a simple fly ball to center by Gallego to plate Giovinazzo and win the game for the Bruins, 3-2.
It was UCLA's second consecutive walk-off sacrifice fly win after they won on a Rahmatulla sacrifice fly on Saturday versus Nebraska. Mitchell Beacom picked up the win for the Bruins, his first of the year, with 2.1 shutout innings on three strikeouts. Claypool went 5.2 innings on the game with three hits and two runs allowed, while striking out seven. Matt Grace did not record an out in facing two batter and Erik Goeddel struck out one in his one inning of work.
Keefer led the Bruins at the plate with a 3-4 performance and Rodriguez went 2-4 with a run scored and he was the winning run who reached base before Giovinazzo pinch ran for him. Amaral chipped in with a 2-4, one RBI, one run performance of his own.
Sitting at 10-0, the Bruins will head to Corpus Christi, Texas this weekend to partake in the Whataburger Classic with Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Mississippi St. and Oklahoma in a key weekend for UCLA as they look to add some quality wins to their resume.